A Shining Example

Earlier today, Doug pointed out how Bernie Marcus believes in the power of free enterprise to improve the world, rather than government action. His belief in the power of private action over public action is backed up elsewhere.

Late in 2005, the Georgia Aquarium opened, immediately becoming the world’s largest. It will be a boon to the Atlanta economy, and is widely regarded by everyone I know who has been there to be absolutely amazing. It creates jobs, it improves tourism, and is a shining example of the rise of the modern Southeast in American prominence.

Of course, we’ve heard things like this before. That’s the typical refrain whenever a sports franchise, or a public group, or anyone else comes before the people looking for tax dollars to fund a project. The NFL franchises tell us of all the jobs and tourism they’ll bring, if only we give them hundreds of millions of dollars to build a stadium they should finance themselves. It’s an argument that often rings hollow.

But in Atlanta’s case, there’s a difference. This $250M aquarium wasn’t financed by government. Atlanta’s tax dollars weren’t used. It was a gift from Bernie Marcus.

In 1979, Bernie Marcus co-founded The Home Depot, opening its first stores and its headquarters in Atlanta, GA. By revolutionizing the home improvement industry, The Home Depot became one of the fastest growing companies in America. A modern day success story, the company made its place in history for its great impact on reducing the costs of home ownership in the United States.

Bernie Marcus knows The Home Depot would not have achieved its full potential without the incredible support of the citizens of Atlanta and Georgia, including customers, associates and stockholders. This is why he wants to give back to this great community, with a gift that reaches as many different lives as possible — young and old, male and female, those who will visit for entertainment and those who will visit for education — just as The Home Depot has touched the lives of a broad and diverse customer base.

In his vision, he also wants to promote economic impact for the city and state, bring growth and new jobs and help create a destination to inspire visitors to stay – and stay longer.

Bernie’s $250 million gift to Georgia is the fulfillment of his appreciation and vision. He now asks you to join him in making the Georgia Aquarium the best it can be.

In the world of the statist, $250M aquariums, built with no desire for profit to the person who puts up the money, would never happen. After all, businessmen are horrible people driven only by money, and if you want something benevolent done, you turn to government. I don’t believe that, Bernie Marcus doesn’t believe that, and he’s put his money where his mouth is. This isn’t only a shining example of “The New South”, this is a shining example of the power of private activity.